Makayla Epps and the no. 8 ranked Lady Cats defeated the Louisville Cardinals 72-54 in the first of the their back-to-back home games in Rupp Arena tonight.
The Cats started off early, Epps scoring off a jumper right inside the three-point line within the first 10 seconds of the game. That momentum carried on as Kentucky got up 7-0, denying Louisville any chance they had (at this point the UofL writer beside me sighed in defeat).
Playing off the hype of an early head, the Cats continued to lay it on the Cards throughout the entire game. Aware of the big stage, Epps, Alexis Jennings and Taylor Murray played with an intensity that hadn’t been seen all season. All three were after every ball and gave it everything they had on each drive.
The local superstar of this team, Epps was 10-11 tonight, finishing with a total of 24 points and four rebounds, a season best for Epps point-wise. Epps played all but six minutes of the entire game. Showcasing the leader that she is on and off the court and that she is someone who can be trusted with the ball in her hands.
“It’s always good when you can give her the ball and she can go execute an and-one play and then come right back down for another tough play,” said head coach Matthew Mitchell.
Epps has prepared herself for times like that. Saying that last year she wasn’t necessarily that person and she never knew what to say, but now she feels confident that she can do so.
“[Mitchell] told me that sometimes the ball is going to have to be in my hands and I’m perfectly fine with that,” Epps said.
Jennings was money with the Trey Lyles mid-range jumper tonight. Scoring 14 points, grabbing eight rebounds and two blocks to go along with that. Coming off the bench, Taylor Murray (Darius Miller much?) took a while to score her first points but it wasn’t for a lack of trying on her part. She played hard and was going full speed on every drive.
Another Kentucky native, Maci Morris was cold from behind the line tonight shooting 2-3 from behind the line with 8 points total. Janee Thompson also chipped in with two threes of her own, getting 10 points of her own.
Overall, the team shot 51.8% from the field. The first time the Cats have done so in consecutive game since 2013. They also shot only one more shot than Louisville’s 55, but still managed to win by 18 points. Kentucky also outscored Louisville in the paint 20-29 and out rebounded them 36-27.
This was the fifth time in the last six years that Kentucky has beaten Louisville, advancing them to 34-18 in the series overall. It was incredibly evident that the players knew the game was big and knew the rivalry between the two schools was intense based on their passionate play tonight.
Something else that was not so small was that Alyssa Rice got her first minutes of the season after suffering a foot injury in the pre-season. Even though she played only four minutes, she contributed grabbing one rebound.
This was the first home game that the Cats had played since the departure of the fourth player this season, Kyvin-Goodin Rogers. However, both Rogers and Linnae Harper were present at the game, cheering on the Cats from behind the bench.
The Cats play against Middle Tennessee State University on Sunday at 3, but there will be no network coverage. So, let’s run it back again on the 20th against Duke in Rupp at 7.